Much of the literary, historical, documentary and pictorial evidence from ancient Athens is distinctly urban in authorship, subject matter and intended audience.
In “Rural Athens Under the Democracy” Nicholas F. Jones undertakes the first comprehensive attempt to reconstruct on its own terms the world of rural Attica outside the walls during the “classical” fifth and fourth centuries B.C. What he finds is a distinctly nonurban (and nonurbane) order dominated by a traditional, predominantly agrarian society and culture.
Jones draws from the relatively neglected epigraphic record from the countryside and villages, as well as posing new questions about the well-known urban writings of Athenian historians, essayists and philosophers, and occasionally following the lead of Hesiod’s agrarian poem, “Works and Days.” From these sources he gleans new findings regarding settlement patterns, explores relations between villages and the town of Athens and contrasts the realities of rural Attic culture with their various representations in contemporary literary and philosophical writings.
“Rural Athens Under the Democracy” presents the first holistic examination of classical extramural Attica. He challenges the received view that ancient Athens in its heyday was marked by a uniform cultural, ideological and conspicuously citified order and, in place of the perception of things rural as mere deficits in urbanity, proposes that we look at Attica outside the walls in its own right and in positive terms.
Nicholas F. Jones is a professor of Classics at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of “Public Organization in Ancient Greece,” “Ancient Greece: State and Society,” and “The Associations of Classical Athens: The Response to Democracy.”
Originally published on March 18, 2004